OPINION
Boots and all
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While the US are acting like lunatics and Germany are luring the big guns with steins, Hong Kong are talking sevens sense

Plan for a three-round domestic competition in August could be just the beginning

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 11:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 11:55am

Last year’s Rio Olympics put sevens on the world map, prompting every man and his dog to go to extreme lengths to get a piece of the pie.

Well, not everyone is taking it to the extreme. Just those in the US, who pride themselves on having the biggest and best of everything, sporting or not.

So, not surprisingly, the Americans are leading the charge as far as coming up with ways to milk the sevens cow.

They’re not alone in their pursuit, but the US have come up with the most out-there suggestion – one that sounds like pure idiocy.

It’s called the Super 7s, with games featuring four 12-minute quarters and constantly rotating squads of 16 to 21 players, with the hope that it will evolve into an annual league by 2019.

Anyone who has seen a standard 14-minute game of sevens knows the players walk off knackered enough, but this it’s not really about the players.

The idea is to increase television audiences, with the launch set to ride on the back of the hype created by the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco in July next year.

If there is anywhere it could work it’d be in the US, but this could quickly end up like the ill-fated 15-a-side PRO Rugby, which launched in 2016 and was the mother of all flash in the plans, failing to return this year.

Germany are also getting in on the act, supercharging their annual Oktoberfest amateur sevens tournament to include a professional division.

World Series sides Argentina, Australia, France and England have already committed, while it is hoped heavy hitters Fiji may also get involved.

The idea is that the Germans, who narrowly missed a spot on the World Series at this year’s qualifier in Hong Kong, will get exposure to the best teams in the business.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking when mixing Oktoberfest and rugby players, or anyone, the reality could be quite different. I know where I’d be.

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Not to knock the Germans, who are desperate to make it onto the World Series, the lure of a few steins has no doubt acted as a perfect way to attract the top sides and what a luxury it is to have so many great teams come to you.

Tucked in behind the likes of the USA and Germany is Hong Kong, who are taking a sustainable approach with their plans – which are still being finalised – to launch a domestic sevens competition in August.

If you sit and think about it for a minute, it makes you wonder why there wasn’t one years ago.

Lack of player depth has long been an issue for Hong Kong’s sevens team, along with the fact that the best players get pulled from 15s to sevens and back again.

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The latter likely won’t be remedied for many years, but the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s plans to launch a three-round sevens series should go some way to relieving pressure on numbers.

The plan is to have the six men’s and eight women’s premiership teams involved, as well as two invitational sides in each competition.

A senior competition in itself may not have a massive impact on the quality of the top side – Hong Kong’s coaches have a fair grasp on what is out there – but it will ensure more players get a taste of competitive sevens and, most importantly, it’s a starting point for bigger and better things.

Creating greater sevens exposure for school-age kids seems the logical next step and if the union can get a structure in place where teenagers are playing competitive sevens, maybe one day there will be a production line of youngsters preened especially for the sevens game.

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It’s an exciting prospect and, while numbers will still be an issue, hopefully having a specific competition will attract more kids to the game, those that are captivated by the electric nature of sevens but see little excitement in 15s.

Perhaps then Hong Kong will start producing players good enough to get them on the World Series.